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Down By the Riverside: Readings in African American Religion. (faith reviews).

Down By the Riverside: Readings in African
American Religion
edited by Larry G. Murphy
NYU Press, January 2001, $24.95
ISBN 0-814-75581-X


"A good way to understand a people is to study their religion, for religion is addressed to that most sacred schedule of values around which the expression and meaning of life tends to coalesce."--C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African Experience.

Larry G. Murphy's book, a compilation of forty-three essays by theologians and historians, traces the development of African American spirituality, with emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. Through its arrangement, in nine sections, Down By the Riverside provides a thematic overview of the unfolding religious life of African Americans.

This is a kaleidoscopic view of African-American beliefs, from the intertwining of African gods into Christian theology (i.e., Santeria orisha worship and Catholic practice) to black Judaism to Orthodox Islam to Protestantism, social advocacy to black nationalism.

The role of women in religion is represented by essays on the ordination of women, women in leadership roles, and womanist theorizing about religion and the family.

Murphy includes a timeline of the African-American community from 1526 to the end of the 20th century. I found the contributors included particularly interesting, as the book delineates the leaders and institutions, programs and practices, and the music and arts of the community, as well as the defining events in world and American religion.

While this may not be, strictly speaking, a history of religious worship in the African-American community, certainly for lay readers it serves as a smorgasbord of the study of black spirituality.

--Reviewed by Venida Evans Venida Evans is an actor living in New York City.
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Author:Evans, Venida
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:284
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